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Small victories, large defeats.



Updated: 2018-01-20T07:39:35-05:00

 



Roy Halladay had mix of medications in his system at time of fatal plane crash

2018-01-20T07:39:35-05:00

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The autopsy results of the former Phillies great’s death have been released.

Former Phils star and Cy Young Award winner Roy Halladay had a mix of medications in his system at the time of his death.

That’s the headline grabbing everyone’s attention this morning, after the Pinellas County Medical Examiner released the results of the future Hall of Famer’s autopsy on Friday.

According to the report, trace amounts of amphetamines, as well as morphine and a sleeping drug were in his system at the time of his death. Halladay perished when the sport plane he was flying crashed into the shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico back in November. The autopsy stated Halladay died of blunt force trauma, and that drowning “was a factor” in his death as well.

According to the New York Daily News, large quantities — 72 ng/mL — of Zolpidem, a drug used to treat insomnia, were also found in the former MLB player’s system. On its website, the FDA says 50 ng/ml of Zolpidem “appears capable of impairing driving to a degree that increases the risk of a motor vehicle accident.”

The report did not indicate how much of those drugs were found in his system, and at this time, it’s unknown whether the drugs in Halladay’s system were prescribed or through some other means.

The 40-year-old right-handed ace was flying his two-seat sport plane off the coast of Florida when it plunged into the waters 10 miles off the coast. Video from boaters near the scene appeared to show Halladay doing steep dives in his sport plane shortly before it crashed.

The autopsy also revealed Halladay had a blood alcohol level of 0.01 in his system. The FAA requires pilots not consume any alcohol within eight hours of flying a plane.

Halladay was a two-time Cy Young Award winner and is one of only two pitchers to throw a no-hitter in a playoff game.




FanPost Friday: Figuring out the backstops

2018-01-19T08:30:02-05:00

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There are three catchers who are capable of handling the bulk of the time, but not three roster spots (probably). Who will stay?

By now, you know about the conundrum that is bubbling up behind the backstop for the Phillies heading into Spring Training. They are in the enviable spot of having too many options to handle the position. Whether you agree or not that they are effective as starters is your own opinion, but there is no denying each one of Jorge Alfaro, Andrew Knapp and Cameron Rupp is plenty capable of making roughly 90-100 league average starts for the team.

The problem is: who does the team keep? Typically, there is only room for two catchers and one of them will presumably be Alfaro, who is the most talented of the group and the one who is also out of minor league options. That means one of the spots is probably settled, leaving Knapp and Rupp to battle it out for the other roster spot. Ben Harris over at The Athletic laid out a case that Knapp’s ability to win plate appearances by being successful on the margins might give him an edge over Rupp (subscription required). Over in the Fanposts here at The Good Phight, reader “ohhte” broke down his opinion about why Knapp might be the best option to start, let alone make the team.

These are all compelling cases, but Rupp also does have a track record of some success behind the plate. Earlier this offseason, I wrote about how bad the framing was this season for the team, but even if you extrapolate Alfaro’s small sample over the entire season, Rupp might be the “best” the team has when it comes to defense. Plus, there is no doubt that Rupp has a leadership role on this team, and on a squad that just traded its best leader to San Diego, keeping Rupp around in that role is something worth considering.

So I ask you the readers: who are the best two options for the team at catcher for 2018?

As always, please make sure you are respectful in your writing. State your case as best you can with logical points. Even if we, the writing staff, may not be commenting, you can bet that we are reading everything you are putting there. Who knows? The best one might make it up on to the main page.

Until next week....




Let’s talk ourselves into one of these uninspiring starting pitchers, Phillies fans

2018-01-19T07:00:02-05:00

On Episode 172 of The Felske Files, host John Stolnis takes a look at the lower-tier free agent starters, a more likely group from which an addition will be selected. We’ve been talking a lot about the Phillies needing to add a starter this off-season, and it still feels like they’re going to add somebody. But despite Nick Williams trying to sell the Phils to Jake Arrieta, I still don’t think the former Chicago ace is coming to Philadelphia. And it feels that if the Phillies were interested in bringing Lance Lynn or Alex Cobb aboard, it would have happened already. I dunno, maybe the asking prices of these pitchers are too high, maybe they all want five-year deals, and maybe the Phillies either aren’t interested or are really trying to get them on the cheap. It’s impossible to say. But it feels like, the later things get in this winter, the more likely it is the Phillies are going to be heading back to the bargain bin of free agency for a free agent starting pitcher on a one or two-year deal. So who are those guys this year? Which free agents out there make sense? On this week’s episode of The Felske Files, I talk about the lower-tier of free agents and which ones would work for the Phillies and which don’t. width="100%" height="400" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?visual=true&url=https%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F385817309&show_artwork=true&=&color=%2523ff5500&auto_play=true&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&show_teaser=true&visual=true"> None of these cats will get you excited about their arrival, but they know how to throw an overhand baseball, so that’s something. Jason Vargas If the Phillies decide they want a lefty in the rotation, Vargas would be my choice. His fWAR and bWARs were quite different last year, based on the gap between his FIP and ERA. He went 18-11 with a 4.16 ERA in 179.2 innings last year (32 starts), giving him a bWAR of 3.8. He also led the American League in wins. WINS, PEOPLE! However, his FIP of 4.67 gave him a 1.6 fWAR. Baseball Prospectus’ DRA for Vargas came closer to his ERA, at 3.83, giving him a WARP of 3.5. That to me, is the tie-breaker. The main worry with Vargas is his health. He made just nine starts for the Royals in 2015 and three with KC in 2016, but he did take the hill 32 times last year, and his strikeout rate of 17.7% was higher than his career average of 15.8%. Vargas would probably be my top option overall, and a two-year deal for the 34-year-old sounds about right, too. Andrew Cashner Andrew Cashner either had a fantastic 2017 season or an OK 2017 season, depending on which website you visit. Baseball Reference gave him credit for 4.6 bWAR last year, thanks to an 11-11 record in 28 starts (166.2 IP) and an ERA of 3.40. That 4.6 bWAR was 12th in MLB last season. In other words, they say he had the 12th-best season in baseball last year. However, Fangraphs gave him credit for 1.9 fWAR, thanks to a much-higher FIP of 4.61. That was tied for 45th out of 58 qualified MLB starters last year. Yeah, this is why WAR screws some people up. So who’s right? Baseball Prospectus had Cashner’s Deserved Run Average (DRA) at 4.81, giving him a WARP of 1.4. And from 2013-16, Cashner posted bWARs of 2.4, 1.9, -0.9, -0.1 and -0.6. In other words, he was below a replacement level pitcher in the three seasons prior to last season. A plummeting strikeout rate (12.2% last season) in ‘17 was covered up by the fact hitters batted just .247 against him, thanks to a .266 BABIP. He does get lots of ground balls (48.6%), so that’s good, but he won’t put up an ERA that low again. Chris Tillman There’s no other way to say it, Chris Tillman was just awful last year. In 24 appearances (19 starts) he posted an ERA of 7.84 and a FIP of 6.93. He was worth -2.2 bWAR and -1.0 fWAR, and a shoulder injury that caused him to miss last off-season’s throwing program screwed up his mec[...]



The Phillies need Jerad Eickhoff to be the human metronome again

2018-01-17T18:20:58-05:00

The Phils’ right-hander had been so consistent until an injury-filled 2017 season. Can he bounce back? After arriving from the Texas Rangers in the Cole Hamels deal in August of 2015, Jerad Eickhoff was better than anyone could have expected. And through the end of 2016, he continued to impress, steadily and consistently. He wasn’t flashy. He didn’t blow people away with a mid-90s fastball or have a wipe-out slider or anything like that. Instead, he used pinpoint fastball control and a plus-curveball to get hitters out with regularity. He was, as I called him, the Human Metronome. Last year, in my annual 10 Bold Predictions piece, I predicted Eickhoff would make the National League All-Star team (I was wrong about that and a TON of other things as you’ll see if you bang the link). After all, in 41 starts through 2016, Eickhoff had an ERA of 3.44, had pitched 248.1 innings, had an ERA+ of 120 and had struck out 216 batters while walking just 55. Eickhoff was worth 5.3 WAR according to Baseball Reference, and that 3.44 ERA ranked 37th out of 145 qualified Major League starting pitchers during that time, just behind Jacob deGrom (3.41), Yu Darvish (3.41), Chris Sale (3.40) and Carlos Carrasco (3.38). He was better than Gerrit Cole (3.47), Johnny Cueto (3.49), Felix Hernandez (3.65), Zack Greinke (3.71) and David Price (3.73). That’s pretty damn good, y’all. Then, 2017 happened. In 24 starts last season, his ERA ballooned to 4.71. He lasted just 128 innings (averaging 5.1 innings per start), down from 6.0 innings per start prior. His walk rate jumped from 5.2% in 2016 to 9.2%, and opponents batted .274 against him, up from .246 the year before. That lead to a ghastly WHIP of 1.52, drastically higher than his 1.16 in 2016. As a result, his WAR in 2017 was -0.3. He went from being the Human Metronome to a broken coo-coo clock. And that All-Star Game didn’t happen. So what was the deal? At the start of the season, for whatever reason, his mechanics were messed up. Then, in late August, Eickhoff went on the disabled list with nerve irritation in his pitching hand. Perhaps he was battling an injury most of the season, as his fastball velocity had dropped from 91.5 mph in 2015-16 to 90.4 mph last year. The injury, in a way, was good news, knowing his struggles could have been related to some outside force and not due to regression or the league catching up to him. Of course, we don’t know that the injury was the reason Eickhoff struggled last year, but it’s enough to give Phillies fans hope that 2018 could be different. The 27-year-old was in Philadelphia this week and talked about his rehab which consisted, mainly, of rest. src="https://www.mlb.com/video/share/eickhoff-on-injury-recovery/c-1872579783?tid=8877464" style="border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" allowfullscreen="" scrolling="no"> Last week, Ethan Witte wrote that Vince Velasquez was the most important Phillie on the 2018 roster, and he may be right. If Velasquez establishes himself as a viable starting option, he could still turn into a dominant, top-of-the-rotation arm. Eickhoff doesn’t have that kind of upside, but a return to form in 2018 would stabilize a rotation that doesn’t have any sure things in it other than Aaron Nola. And with the Phils dilly-dallying around the starting pitching market right now, an improved Eickhoff becomes even more important. Folks, the Phillies may not add anyone with a better upside than Eickhoff. His return could be the most significant addition to the 2018 rotation. All good teams need solid, mid-rotation guys. Jerad Eickhoff was one of those guys for parts of two seasons, and the Phillies will need him to be that guy once again if they have any hopes of being a wild card team this season. [...]



The Leadoff, Vol. 1: Rounding the Bend

2018-01-17T09:00:01-05:00

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Ah, January. The first month of a new year. My birthday month. That time of year when it feels right to start new projects, and still have the hope that you’ll see them through. Hopefully, you haven’t canceled your gym membership yet.

So! Enter The Leadoff, a mailbag feature reboot here at The Good Phight that will center around questions you pose on Twitter. With moves likely still to be made in the month between now and pitchers and catchers, we’ll look to run one of these weekly. They’re fueled by your questions, remember! And you don’t even have to @ us (though it’d help). You can just use the hashtag #tgpleadoff and we’ll find your question.

Ah, the hot corner. It’s a pain point for a lot of us. I keep trying to be encouraging about Franco, and I continue to believe in his ability, but I’ll admit that he has a gargantuan mountain to climb in order to win back some fan trust. Plus, with the appetizing options becoming available next winter (e.g., Machado, Donaldson, maybe someone like Marwin Gonzalez?) it’s hard not to turn our eyes elsewhere.

I do think the Phillies have someone other than Maikel Franco start at third base in 2019, though, and I think there’s a better chance of it being Donaldson than Machado.

But, to keep things current and stay focused on 2018 before 2019: Yes, I think it would make some sense to inquire about Donaldson. The Blue Jays seem like they’re being stubborn about it - and I commend them for at least waiting and seeing - but I think they’ll fall off the pace in due time and make some players available; Donaldson chief among them. By then, the Phillies may be too far back of the pack themselves, and the point could be moot. I just don’t see Donaldson being moved before the season starts, even if Toronto has already gone out and picked up Yangervis Solarte. And if the Phillies are in the hunt come July? You’d better believe they’ll be making some international calls.

UPDATE: You can also submit questions for The Leadoff via email! Send questions to thegoodphighttv [at] gmail [dot] com and include Leadoff or TGP Leadoff in the subject line.




In Rhys Hoskins, Phillies put the face on their franchise

2018-01-16T11:25:01-05:00

Matt Klentak tends to keep the Phillies’ plans ambiguous, but one aspect has become abundantly clear. Rhys Hoskins made his big league debut on August 10 this past season, a late addition to a team destined for fifth place. Eighteen home runs later, the marketing department was scrambling to put together a promotion around the 24-year-old fifth round draft pick who, by September 15, had given people a reason to come watch a 57-89 team finish out the year. They called it the Rhys Lightning Ticket Bundle, and it gave you the chance to attend a Phillies game during a series against the A’s, with a free Hoskins t-shirt to boot. It came at the perfect time, on the heels of another Hoskins power surge—not only had he just been named NL Rookie of the Month, he’d also hit six home runs in the last six games to enter the weekend. Sadly, those dingers were the last Hoskins would hit in 2017. But that hasn’t stopped the Phillies from believing they’ve hit a home run. From ringing the bell at a Sixers game with J.P. Crawford, to filming a video for the #NoOffseason hashtag, Hoskins has been front and center as the Phillies have generated content to fill the empty off-season. Today, the annual Phillies Caravan begins, a time of year when several of the hottest representatives and Mark Leiter, Jr. pile into a wagon train and push from town to town to eat dinner and take questions from the fans. Hoskins will be appearing in Reading tonight with Leiter, Gabe Kapler, and Jerad Eickhoff, having attended the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association banquet on January 15, and being set to appear at the Phillies College Winter Summit on Wednesday night. A story on Phillies.com is now literally calling him “the face of the Phillies,” putting an unsubtle exclamation point on the work the marketing team has done to get that point across thus far. And who, watching Hoskins bomb the outfield seats late in the 2017 campaign, wasn’t imagining exactly that? What prospect could generate excitement in the minors, continue that success at a record-breaking pace at the major league level, and finish fourth in NL Rookie of the Year balloting despite only appearing in 50 games and not get shoved to the front of a starved marketing department’s priorities? On top of the bright lights and adoring fans, the team is shifting the roster around to keep Hoskins in the lineup. Having acquired Carlos Santana to play first base, Hoskins is being moved to the outfield, in all likelihood forcing a trade of at least one other promising young Phillies player among Odubel Herrera, Nick Williams, and Aaron Altherr. Given the Phillies’ need for starting pitching, everything seems to align in a world in which one or two young, talented outfielders are now tradable. The team has said that while making a deal is certainly on the table, there’s been no indication of who among those named is the most likely be moved, to where, and for what. The only other “clarity” the Phillies have released is that, actually, they might not trade anyone, and make a four-man outfield work, which is, yes; Matt Klentak throwing another rock in the pond to muddy the waters when it comes to revealing any actual plans. And it’s not the first time. Prior to Freddy Galvis’ trade to San Diego, the question of who would continue to exist in the Phillies infield among Galvis, Cesar Hernandez, J.P. Crawford, Scott Kingery, and Maikel Franco was answered by a plethora of viable scenarios—but one of them was hey, what if we just kept everybody and engaged in some “positional flexibility.” Given the resources at his disposal and the lack of a gun to his head, Klentak has rarely deviated from his philosophy of “We could do something, but we could do anything, who knows.” It’s made the Phillies’ moves easy to imagine, but difficult to predict: The initial response to the Phillies’ rumored interest in Santana at [...]



Pirates trades evoke memories of 2015 Phillies

2018-01-15T20:17:43-05:00

Two regulars, including a franchise legend, are gone, and uncertainty travels in that wake On Monday, the Pittsburgh Pirates traded Andrew McCutchen to the San Francisco Giants. It was, on paper, the Giants seemed destined to make in light of their outfield needs and near misses on Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. So, too, did it seem inevitable for the Pirates, who mere days ago traded young rotation stalwart Gerrit Cole to the Houston Astros. If all of that feels vaguely familiar, despite none of those players having come all that close to playing for the Phillies, well, your sixth sense is onto something. Just two-and-a-half years ago, the Phillies underwent a similar procedure over the course of eight months, trading Cole Hamels in July 2015 and Chase Utley just three weeks later. The two franchise icons, just like that, were gone. And that’s before considering that just eight months prior, the greatest shortstop the team had ever seen (Jimmy Rollins, lest you need the reminder) was also dealt away. Hamels, like Cole (Gerrit, that is), had multiple years remaining on his contract when the Texas Rangers scooped him up in return for six players. Utley, like McCutchen, was in the final year of his own contractual obligation. The two scenarios don’t line up so prettily from an exact timing perspective, it’s true, but lost franchise impact feels similar. Focus on McCutchen: Captain of the revived, resurgent Pirates franchise that ended an oppressive playoff drought, and, at the outset of that time period, provided a home crowd with one of the most memorable moments in playoff history. Sure, Russell Martin is the one who actually hit that homer, but the Bucs were only even in that game on the back of McCutchen’s MVP season in the first place. Cutch departs Pittsburgh having hit 203 homers, 292 doubles and posting an .866 OPS, mostly as an above-average defensive center fielder. He was drafted by Pittsburgh (11th overall in 2005), groomed by Pittsburgh, and beloved by Pittsburgh. Then, focus on Utley: Stoic leader of another resurgent franchise that eventually claimed glory as its own. He, too, has an iconic playoff moment or two he can claim at least partial responsibility for. Although never an MVP, Utley finished in the top 10 in voting three times, and ended his Phillies career with 233 homers and an .847 OPS while playing a rather criminally underappreciated defensive game at second base. He, like Cutch, was drafted (15th overall) and groomed by one team before being dealt. Now, Cole: Picked first overall in 2011, Cole spent the better part of five season with the Pirates at the Major League level, making three postseason starts and notching a top-five Cy Young Award finish (2015). While the bitter taste of unfinished business likely lingers on the tongues of some Pirates fans now that he’s been dealt to Houston, it would be unfair to call most of his 127 starts in the black and gold less than captivating; a curiosity teasing at what could be as he pumped electric fastballs and breaking balls over the plate. Hamels: The lanky southern Californian who matured from barfighter to NLCS and World Series MVP at 24 years old, was traded fewer than three years into a six-year extension signed following the 2012 season. His 294 starts (4th), 114 wins (6th) and 1,844 strikeouts (3rd) as a member of the Phillies are all among the 10 highest totals in club history. What we cannot compare, yet, are the respective returns. The Phillies, as we know, turned a half-season of Utley into Darnell Sweeney, who was paired with Darin Ruf for Howie Kendrick. Hamels’s remaining deal was converted into Nick Williams, Jorge Alfaro, Jake Thompson, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher and Matt Harrison, which has yielded varying results across different levels of the organization. Will the Pirates see similar success with Kyle Crick, Bryan Reynolds, Colin Moran, Joe Mus[...]



The Dirty Inning, Episode 19: Un-1964-gettable

2018-01-15T08:00:02-05:00

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It’s time to party like it’s 1964, which of course means it is time to sit quietly in a room, crushed by the failures of the past.

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What happens if a live ball winds up in the announcer’s hands?

What happens when a catcher successfully steals home on a “dumb, dumb baseball play” in a pivotal game?

What happens when history is altered in a baseball book referred to as “better than pornography” by at least one reader?

On their podcast detailing the worst, most obscure and forgotten innings of Phillies baseball, Justin and Trevor answer these questions, and finally address the elephant in the room: The 1964 Phillies, a topic even baseball minutiae scholar Jayson Stark has stated that he is sick of.

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